Federal Asset-Forfeiture Strategy Extended to Drug Defendants’ Teeth

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The government often seeks to seize the assets of suspects facing drug charges, a procedure that a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle called "fairly routine."  Less routine, and maybe unique, was the attempted seizure this week of two defendants’ "grillz," the custom gold-and-jeweled tooth caps that have been popularized by rappers.

Lawyers for two men charged with drug and weapon violations said that their clients had been taken on Tuesday from a federal detention center in Seattle and told that the government had a warrant to seize their grillz.  A car was waiting to take the men to a local dentist to have the grillz removed.  They were allowed to call their lawyers before being carted away, though, and the lawyers were able to reach a magistrate and get the order stayed.

The authorities claimed they had already abandoned the seizure attempt after finding out the grillz were permanently bonded to the defendants’ teeth.  Apparently, some grillz are permanent although some (like mine) just snap in and out like a retainer.  The interesting question here, though, is if they thought the grillz would just snap out, why take these guys to a dentist to get them removed?  (I’m sure an independent counsel will be named to look into this inconsistency.)

The action was a bit unusual, but much greater seizures have been carried out under the asset-forfeiture policy.  Which did not stop the defense attorneys from going nuclear in public statements.  One, pointing to the fact that seizure warrants are sealed, went with the "secret police" angle: "It’s shocking that this kind of action by the federal government could be sought and accomplished in secret, without anyone being notified."  (That’s typically how you keep things secret, isn’t it?  By not notifying anyone?  —Sssh.  He’s on a roll.)  "It reminds me of the secret detentions" used in the war on terror.  Yeah, it’s like those, except much, much less important and a lot less secret, too.

Since somebody had already used the War on Terror, Richard Troberman had to get his own metaphor, and he did not disappoint.  "It sounds like Nazi Germany when they were removing the gold teeth from the bodies, but at least then they waited until they were dead," said Troberman, a "forfeiture specialist," past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and not a historian.  Again, yeah, it’s exactly like the Nazi death camps, except — oh, never mind.

Link: AP via My Way News